PRINCETON — The grand opening of the Princeton Police Department Substation on Mercer Street was celebrated with a ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon with the hopes to increase the feeling of safety for the Princeton community.
“For what it’s worth, the downtown substation for the police and the city of Princeton is good for businesses, it’s good for the residents here and it’s good for the people that are coming in to visit Princeton. It gives them a sense of connection with the police department and a sense of safety and we are looking forward to working with the community and really making it part of the daily life for Princeton,” City Manager Mike Webb said proceeding the ribbon cutting.
Plans for the substation include increasing police presence on Mercer Street, Straley Avenue and Harrison Street as well as having two officers on bicycle patrol once the weather begins to warm and eventually increasing that number to four officers. The site will also host a full time officer, once staffing allows, who will spend 40 hours at the substation, according to Deputy Chief T.A. Gray.
According to Webb, the substation will also act as a base during events downtown, such as AutumnFest and Celebrate Princeton, so the officers can be closer without scrambling around the city.
“This has been a long time coming. The city’s talked about this for several years and this just fell together really quickly and Mr. Webb had it all organized and put together within a month or two,” Gray said at the opening.
Gray made it clear that the public needed to remember the office would not have an officer there at all times and they need to contact emergency personnel through 911.
“Just because you see the name here does not mean there’s always someone here because we are going to be in and out going and if you need to call us it’s 911. And I’ll say the same thing for the main station,” Gray said.
According to local business owner Lori McKinney, the public perception of downtown is the main issue to face and by the substation becoming a reality, the community knows that the city isn’t all talk, but action.
“We’ve heard from the police department recently that the number of calls they make down here and also from the rescue squad, they’re just not what the public thinks. And so, I think having the presence here is going to have a comforting thing just to know that they’re nearby. We always know that we can call and the response time is so fast anyway. And so, we’ve always felt safe here because we know that they’re just a phone call away, but having them here is just going to increase the feelings of safety,” McKinney said.
Princeton Mayor David Graham also recognized that business owners on Mercer Street would find the police presence welcoming.
“Biggest thing is that it gets us a presence in the downtown,” Graham said. “I am sure the entire surrounding area feels much safer. In fact I get my hair done here in the hair station and she has told me many times that she feels much safer down here in the evenings and early mornings knowing that there’s somebody next door and they said, ‘we are going to knock on the wall and let you know when we’re in here.’”
According to Webb, there are also plans to work with the children of the community through the substation to make sure local children know police officers are someone they can trust.
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